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Web letter by Laurie Butts: Act now to reverse monarch butterflies’ alarming decline

I live in rural Columbia City, north of the city itself. I have 8 acres to enjoy all of the wildlife in this area.

I raise monarch butterflies all summer. I am not a scientist and I do not know all of the scientific jargon. I don’t know the scientific name for the monarch or the milkweed plants. What I do know is their numbers are dishearteningly low this year.

This summer monarch butterflies were extremely late getting here. When they finally did return, in the last week of July, their numbers were devastatingly low. I raise them and release them each summer. The first summer, 2008, I found and reared more than 100 monarch caterpillars. I was able to find enough of their only food source, milkweed, everywhere. I found a few places that had a lot of milkweed I counted on for the eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises year after year. I even seeded my own 8 acres with milkweed pods.

Since that year the monarchs have dwindled in number. Over these years my count has dropped surprisingly quickly. This year I have only found seven caterpillars to date, and two of the caterpillars died from a parasitic wasp. By this time two years ago I had found more than 50 including their eggs.

The monarch food source has dwindled to next to nothing in this area. The places I went to in the past have little or no milkweed to be found today. I monitor an area about three miles around my home. I share the monarch chrysalis with those around me in an attempt to help them understand the importance of allowing the milkweed to grow on their property, but I am fighting a losing battle. Most of the milkweed is gone – mowed, sprayed and just not growing.

I want the county to stop mowing the plants down on rural roadways and the farmers to stop spraying and allow the milkweed to grow on the edges of their fields, but no one seems to be interested in helping me increase the monarch numbers.

The monarch can be used as a barometer for the overall health of Earth, and the future does not look too bright. At the rate they are going they could be gone forever in just 15 to 20 years. That means your grandchildren’s children may never know what these butterflies look like.

So I encourage farmers to set aside a small portion of their fields to allow the milkweed to grow, allowing the monarch food source for their eggs and allowing their numbers to increase. I would be more than happy to check your patch weekly for the eggs and caterpillars.

For additional information you can go to monarchwatch.org/blog/. Please help me help the monarch butterfly increase in number so we can watch them for many more years to come.

LAURIE BUTTS

Columbia City

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